Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fact-Based Immigration Policy, Cont'd

This is Part Three in my series about immigration. Follow the links to read Part One and Part Two.

Myth Three: We just need to secure the borders first, then we can talk about immigration reform and a pathway to legalization for undocumented workers. 

If the goal of the conservative movement is to reduce the amount of illegal immigrants coming into our country in a cost-efficient manner, then an enforcement-only strategy is doomed to failure. I can say it no better than Gordon H. Hanson, director of the Center on Pacific Economies and a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego. Hanson also has written a recent book for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Regulating Low Skilled Immigrants in the United States. According to Hanson,
The second point I’d like to address in Steve’s comments is on the costs of enforcing immigration law. In my analysis, I assume that it would take a doubling of the enforcement budget (currently at around $16 billion) to reduce illegal immigration to zero. Steve complains that the enforcement budget includes things like customs that are unrelated to illegal immigration. True. However, the point is that eliminating illegal immigration through expanding enforcement, at least under current strategies, is likely to be very expensive, which I use to argue that an enforcement-only approach fails a cost-benefit test. Consider U.S. enforcement efforts since 2005. The Border Patrol has nearly doubled the number of officers in the field from 11,000 to 20,000. What did the enforcement buildup yield? An increase in the price that smugglers charge to illegal immigrants of around 30 percent. Raising smugglers’ prices is in part how the Border Patrol deters illegal immigration. The extra cost of crossing the border from the recent border buildup is around $1,000, an amount that an illegal immigrant could recoup in the United States in about a month (assuming that he earns $8 an hour there and $3.20 in Mexico, after adjusting for differences in the cost of living—recent research by the World Bank suggests that the U.S. cost-of-living-adjusted hourly wage is 2.5 times that in Mexico for the typical young Mexican male migrant). Thus, in the last five years we’ve doubled the personnel cost of the Border Patrol but only made a small dent in the incentive to migrate to the United States. Under current enforcement strategies, it is not unreasonable to think that we would have to do much more than double enforcement spending to drive illegal immigration to zero, which is why I suggest that an enforcement-only strategy is costly. (Of course, one retort is that we should change current enforcement strategies. Point taken. But if better strategies are available, why hasn’t Congress funded them?)
My point in posting this series about immigration is that an 'enforcement-only' strategy is not a conservative strategy. If we want to reduce illegal immigration while shrinking the deficit and curbing government spending then we need to pursue comprehensive immigration reform. Let's modestly increase the budgets for ICE and Customs and Border Protection. But, more importantly, let's reform the current system so that immigrants have a legitimate opportunity of coming legally. Right now they don't. Illegal immigration will never shrink (short of spending $50 billion a year) so long as potential immigrants don't have an incentive to do things the right way.

An enforcement-only strategy may seem effective to feed the populist anger of conservative voters, but it is not an effective strategy in the real world.

More to come...

Cross posted at The Cross Culturalist

16 comments:

Right Wingnut said...

Let's modestly increase the budgets for ICE and Customs and Border Protection

I've got a better idea. Let's use the whatever portion of the remaining stimulus money is necessary to seal the border once and for all. All this nonsensical talk about "comprehensive immigration reform" aka amnesty needs to be shelved until we stop them from coming here.

Pablo said...

RW,

That would be an awful idea. I am not sure how much money is left of the stimulus, but either way, you are talking about a one time thing. An enforcement only approach hinges on the idea that the government will be continuously spending $50 billion a year or more on border enforcement. When the stimulus money disappears, so does border enforcement. Secondly, the stimulus money was designed to create economic growth. We can debate about whether it did or not, but one thing is for sure: if you don't want the stimulus to create economic growth, then spend it on border security.

Can you please read the post again and comment on the actual argument made by Hanson. Do you agree with his analysis or not? Why or why not? We can decrease illegal immigrants without throwing ourselves into debt, but we have to move past speaking in populist mantra.

Right Wingnut said...

Use the stimulus money to build the fence and whatever else is necessary to stem the flow of illegals, and then appropriate whatever funds are necessary to effectively secure the border going forward. Then we can talk about what to do with the ones that are already here.

Now is not the time to water down the issue.

Pablo said...

I just want to get one thing straight. You are in favor of the government spending billions and billions of dollars, so long as it is spent on a project that does not grow the economy and so long as it spent on a project that has thus far proven to fail?

By the way, the main thrust of my argument is not about amnesty, although I am in favor of it. I am talking about immmigration reform. We need to reform the current laws and bureacracy so that potential immigrants have a legitimate chance of entering this country legally. An enforcement only strategy is very, very costly. If you want to talk about amnesty (which Palin supports) later, then fine. But as a conservative, I am not in favor of wasting government money on projects that don't work.

Revolution 2010 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revolution 2010 said...

Pablo,

Give me some ideas of what you feel would limit immigration according to NUMBERS THAT WE WANT, not Mexicans who feel that the number we chose, doesn't include them.

Do you really believe that if we say X amount are allowed each year that those who are left out of that number, will suddenly say, "Well I guess I'll just have to wait."

I believe their goal is to come and go as THEY (not us) please!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Rev on this!

Until I here what you feel would work, just saying, change in policies, reform, is a lot of meaningless rhetoric.

zeke

Pablo said...

Rev,

I would favor immigration being market driven, which is what essentially happens. The last two years have seen a decrease in the entry of illegal immigrants, mainly because the economy has been so bad.

However, in the long run, we are going to need more immigration as baby boomers retire and expect to receive the social security checks. We are going to have few people working and paying taxes and more people expecting to receive their benefits. We are going to need more immigrants, not fewer.

kelly said...

Pablo,

"in the long run, we are going to need more immigration as baby boomers retire and expect to receive the social security checks. We are going to have few people working and paying taxes and more people expecting to receive their benefits. We are going to need more immigrants, not fewer."

That's assuming they will be on the giving end of benefits rather than the RECEIVING end.

Bill589 said...

Pablo, I don’t know you personally, but for some reason I find I like you. I guess I feel you’re honest about your beliefs and don’t attack my beliefs with hatred, just disagreement.

But I must say, I disagree with your whole premise about Illegal Immigrants. I don’t know where to start, and I’ve replied to you about it before, so I guess I won’t start again, at least this time.

Being a new year, just let me pray that whatever is best for our country, and our posterity, to happen.

Pablo said...

Bill, thanks for the kind words. We do disagree a lot. But friends can disagree on politics.

And I agree with you about our country -- whatever is best for our country.

Pablo said...

Kelly,

That is a legitimate fear and honestly, the research that I have done has resulted in mixed findings. Certainly, if illegal immigrants were granted legal status, they would pay more taxes. They would continue to receive the same benefits as before, so there were be a slight improvement. However, we don't know what the cost-benefit ration would be, since there is no specific questions about that asked on the census forms.

One thing is for sure: the cost-benefit ratio for immigrants much depends on second and third generation immigrants. First generation immigrants usually cost more than they benefit society. Second generation immigrants, however, if they go to school, usually become more skilled and therefore contribute more taxes through higher income. That is why the DREAM Act was so important and should have been supported by conservatives.

Ann said...

I tend to agree with most here.

I to believe nothing short of open borders will satisfy the numbers of those who seek to come here.

An Open Border is unacceptable.

I think we have to start looking at this as a criminal act. Most countries would not except their borders being violated. They would not bend over backwards to insure violators are made to feel at home.

Until we start looking at this from a invasion, defense, security issue, nothing will be accomplished.

I also agree that assets should be seized from those American who hire or assist in any way these illegals.

Pablo said...

Wow, I have not advocated for open borders. In contrast, I have advocated for increasing the budgets of ICE and Customs and Border Protection.

Right Wingnut said...

Wow, I have not advocated for open borders. In contrast, I have advocated for increasing the budgets of ICE and Customs and Border Protection. - Pablo

This passage in your post caught my attention. "Modestly increase" implies that you're not willing to do whatever is necessary to seal the border - just throw a bone in a comprehensive immigration reform package to make it look like we're doing something about the problem.

Let's modestly increase the budgets for ICE and Customs and Border Protection.

Pablo said...

Yes, I am willing to do whatever is necessary to decrease illegal immigration. RW, please read my posts.